Designers in the driver seat in Hong Kong


This month Pieter van Os, Program Manager CIRCO International, visited Hong Kong as part of a larger trip through Asia. With a Dutch high profile delegation working on the intersection of design, research and education, he participated in the Business of Design Week (BoDW), and connected with relevant design and research organisations. Read Pieter's blog on his visit below.

Hong Kong BODW 2022

Introduction of the Framework Circular Design at BoDW

The Business of Design Week is a highly regarded design and business innovation event in Asia, and next year the Netherlands will be strategic partner country for the event. It is the intention as the Netherlands to bring the power of mission-driven design to the attention, with circular design as a spearhead.

The Trip

During the COVID-19 period, CIRCO has trained just over 60 trainers in 9 countries to activate companies and apply the CIRCO method. These countries are fully digital and remotely trained. The results are better than expected, but the personal contact for matters such as personal motivation, uncertainties about participant ‘management’ and the details of the method is still a loss. Being able to travel again and getting the opportunity to visit the CIRCO hubs in Singapore and Thailand, and the Business of Design Week in Hong Kong in one trip, is therefore very welcome*. This is a short impression of the last stop; Hong Kong.

The hub partner

In Hong Kong there is no CIRCO-hub and certified trainers to offer the CIRCO Methodology yet. In collaboration with CreativeNL and the Dutch consulates, we are currently having first contacts with potential Hub partners and connections with public circular programs. The conversation held by the other delegates during this week confirmed the fertile soil for this. Preferably, though somewhat ambitious, a CIRCO Hub will be started before the summer of next year aiming the first results can be shared during BoDW ’23. However, there is a much more important motivation to establish a hub in Hong Kong as it is an important nucleus for the design of products and processes for Mainland China, ’the factory of the world’. For a global circular transition it is therefore believed to be essential that the local design community in Hong Kong is motivated and equipped to design circularly.

The designers

Sustainability is already an important point of attention at BoDW ’22 (content can be viewed here). Most of the designers who speak at BoDW indicate that they design sustainably, but the widespread implementation of circular design in everyday products still seems to be a challenge. In that light it is both an honor and conducive to participate in the Dutch Inspiration session to exchange more about the practical implementation of both the CIRCO design method and the framework circular design that both provide design tools and knowledge for that purpose. In combination with the practical design cases shared by Mariet Schreurs of Orange Creatives during the session, and the broader view on circular design shared by Daan van Eijk the day before, we succeeded to present The Netherlands as a guiding country in the field of circular design. In discussion during the event there was a broad consensus that designers can or even should play an important role as ‘circular change agent’ and that the CIRCO Method and framework circular design can, at least partly, enable them to take that role. There is much more to exchange and explore on these topics. We will then give further substance to this when the BoDW-organization and design community will visit The Netherlands next March.

The Dutch Consulate Hong Kong

The Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Hong Kong and Macau attaches great importance to both design and circularity. They are therefore an important partner for both this visit and BoDW ’23. An interesting activity is the Designing Circularity exhibition 2023 initiated by the consulate with inspiring circular examples, which is currently being prepared by Sjoerd Hoekstra and Simone de Waart.

In the context of this exhibition, we organized a dialogue session with designers of local companies on Friday morning at the residence. A great honor; the first workshop after COVID-19 on the completely newly redesigned residence. With about 20 participants from interesting companies, after an introductory presentation by Simone and myself, we had a sparkling dialogue of 3 hours. We further explored the state of circularity in Hong Kong and how design and exchange of design knowledge and expertise between Hong Kong and the Netherlands can accelerate circular developments. It also became clear that, particularly in the field of digitization and smart industry, there is also a lot to learn from Hong Kong.

Impession of the circular design workshop at the Residence

During this short stay, Hong Kong indeed proves to be an important centre for design and innovation serving a gigantic region. Sustainability and circularity are considered increasingly important, but here too people are still looking for practical and everyday application of circular design. It is a nice challenge to further shape this together in 2023, by, amongst others, trying to start a CIRCO Hub, co-shaping the content for BoDW ’23, and the exhibition. This stop in Hong Kong was just a short exploration that tastes like more.

 * And indeed, I made a lot of air miles, but by doing a lot digitally, visiting multiple countries in one journey and in the belief and expectation that the hubs make a significant contribution to the circular transition, this is justifiable for myself.